A January Investment Outlook should normally be filled with recommended “do’s and don’ts,” “picks and pans” and December 31, 2015, forecasts for interest rates and risk assets. I shall do all of that as usual when I travel to New York City for the annual Barron’s Roundtable in a few weeks’ time. That is always an opportunity for me to engage in verbal jousting with Marc Faber, Mario Gabelli
) and the usual bearish forecast from the Gnome of Zurich, Felix Zulauf. So I’ll leave the specific forecasting for a few weeks’ time and sum it up in a few quick sentences for now: Beware the Ides of March, or the Ides of any month in 2015 for that matter. When the year is done, there will be minus signs in front of returns for many asset classes. The good times are over.
Timing the end of an asset bull market is nearly always an impossible task, and that is one reason why most market observers don’t do it. The other reason is that most investors are optimists by historical experience or simply human nature, and it never serves their business interests to forecast a decline in the price of the product that they sell. Nevertheless, there comes a time when common sense must recognize that the king has no clothes, or at least that he is down to his Fruit of the Loom briefs, when it comes to future expectations for asset returns. Now is that time and hopefully the next 12 monthly “Ides” will provide some air cover for me in terms of an inflection point. Manias can outlast any forecaster because they are driven not only by rational inputs, but by irrational human expressions of fear and greed. Knowing when the “crowd” has had enough is an often frustrating task, and it behooves an individual with a reputation at stake to stand clear. As you know, however, moving out of the way has never been my style so I will stake my claim with as much logic as possible and hope to persuade you to lower expectations for future returns over the next 12 months. Continue Reading »